Do I Know You?
By Ofri Ben Porat.
Data privacy is a complex issue which has been highlighted by the revelations that Facebook has access to 98 different data points on its users, that WhatsApps is sharing user data with Facebook and Snapchat is about to introduce behavioral marketing to its app. These acts may seem intrusive, but this depends entirely on how the data is being used and who has access.
Data Vs Insight
Quite often, this supposedly intrusive data is not actually very insightful; this is the difference between data profiles and data insights. Two women who are born in the same year, both in the public eye and both with the same level of income, may appear to be the same on paper. In reality their personalities might be completely different and their interests polar opposite. Businesses should harness data to provide customers with the best possible experience so they need to gain real insight into an individual’s preferences, otherwise, the data is almost useless. Although someone may visit a site or follow footballer players online it doesn’t mean they plan to buy anything or want to be surrounded with constant targeted advertising.
Privacy as Currency
Targeted ads are now common place on Facebook and so are the Facebook ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons on various websites and apps. If a consumer clicks ‘like’ they are allowing that information to be shared on Facebook. However, if no button is pressed, Facebook can still track the user’s internet browsing history and set up the relevant ads, regardless. Aside from the fact that this approach is morally questionable, if businesses are trying to get real data on their customers, targeted adverts are simply not enough of an added value for the consumers that are giving up their data. Like Snapchat recently stated, the business does not want to “serve ads that are so custom-tailored they feel invasive or uncomfortable.” It will therefore be interesting to see how Snapchat develops and implements its behavioral marketing tactics. Businesses have to remember that if they insist on doing this, the consumer experience has to be elevated high enough to make this a legitimate exercise.
Yet, as long as consumers continue using social media and shop online there has to be an understanding that personal data will be collected by businesses to improve customer experience, just as a regular visitor to a store can expect to be recognized by staff and offered particular recommendations based what they like or dislike.
However, that doesn’t give businesses the right to follow their customers wherever they go; all individual activity or data should remain within the used app or website and should never be shared with a third party without the consumer’s knowledge.
And it’s pointless for businesses to collect data if it’s not right — businesses need to make sure they’re getting a clear picture of their customers so they can provide a truly personalized experience. So the question of whether or not data collection is intrusive doesn’t have a simple yes or no answer — we first need to think about why and who that data is being collected by, what it’s being used for and who has access to it.